Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tetanus for Teaching.

About two months ago, my friend Charlene (a PCV, and also a fellow Virginian [she lives about 8 miles from my dad and we share 8 or so mutual friends... small world]) invited me and a few others to her Primary Teacher's College for a Science Demonstration Day. She asked that we bring around 5 demonstrations to show the kids and told us we would have three 30 minutes sessions attended by 50 kids each in which to teach.

For some reason... I wanted my session to steal the show, to bring the house down, so start a riot... And what accomplishes this desire with students better than the potential for DANGER and EXCITEMENT??!?!! (The correct answer is: NOTHING.)

I built a bed of nails!! (DUN, DUN, DUNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!)

This project in the states would have taken about an hour, maybe less with right power tools. Here in Uganda? It took about 6 hours of SOLID work. I had to locate the wood, haggle over the price, find a drill-bit, fix my stupid hand-held drill (twice), drill a shit-ton of holes, pound a bunch of nails through those holes, sacrifice my back to the evil contraption to see if it "worked", drill MORE holes, pound more nails and sacrifice my back again to ensure that I was successful.

It was AWESOME! And using it was even BETTER!

My original grid was 1 inch x 1 inch.

Here is my POS hand drill.

A close-up of the tip. Note 2 things here: (1.) The "drill bit" is actually a NAIL! The carpenter in town didn't have bits, but he said I could sharpen the tip of a smaller nail with a file and it would work fine. It worked GREAT, and I saved money on the bit! (2.) See the welding? Yeah, these drills are the six-sigma rejects that no one else in the world would accept... save Uganda. I had it tack-welded the first time (that failed). I had the guy use half a welding stick the second time.

Drilling A LOT of holes. There were around 400 nails in the finished board. On each of the 10 lines along the boards width, there were 22 nails. 22 nails on on would grain creates MONSTER cracks. Pre-drilled holes are a must (in the states you can just use peg board).

Here is the product after throwing nails into all of the original holes. That empty space is the location of what developed into a full board-length crack. I didn't put nails there in hopes that the crack would not propagate (it did anyway, so later I put in the nails).

Here is my back after my first try on the board. The inverted pictures shows the holes better. It hurt like HELL laying on this thing, so I had to add almost 200 more nails.

I placed the extra holes in the middle of each square. The big crack is clearly visible, but the bed didn't fall apart because of the added supports across its width.

FIERCE! It was hilarious traveling with this thing from Kyenjojo to Ibanda. As I walked by I kept hearing people say, "VERY! VERY! DANGEROUS!" while pointing to me. The cool thing was that I didn't even have to bargain down the Mujungu-price set by the Fort-Kamwengi and Kamwengi-Ibanda taxis like I normally have (I don't think they didn't want to risk my fury :)).

I saved the bed for the last demo. I gathered all the students together around the stage. Here I am inciting their cheers ("Listen, I'm scared of this thing! If I don't hear your cheers, I don't know if I'm going to have the strength to do it! CHEER, CHEER, CHEER!!!"
(Sorry about the blur.)

The first part is the worst. It does hurt a bit.

SUCCESS! It didn't kill me after all!! I love the faces in the background. People were cheering and clapping and jumping up and down. I never really thought I'd enjoy a stage... but on occasion, I definitely do! (look at that dirty butt!)

Of course others in the crowd had to try it out.

Try as I might, I could not get a girl to try the bed. But plenty of guys either volunteered during the demo or simply ran up to the front of the class when my back was turned to try it on their own. It was definitely a hit!

The bed of nails was a TOTAL success. It accompanied 4 other demonstrations that showing various applications of pressure.

While the kids may not remember the MATH behind the "magic," I doubt they'll ever forget the day when they saw an irish-potato get STABBED right through the middle by a 3.5 inch nail but then watched in amazement as a (part)-Irish MUJUNGU tried to go to sleep on a hole bed of the same damn nails a few minutes later!

Thanks for reading!

I love you all (but especially you, Michelle!)


P.S. How do you like my pink, cut-off denim shirt? The back is covered in white Hawaiian flower outlines. I am the epitome of elegance and taste!

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